For more than three decades, 1835-1870, the demand for ice in the US burgeoned from a thousand tons to more than 80,000 a year. Delivering ice to firms and affluent families was a massive business back then. The first industrial ice producer began in 1825 in Baltimore. But it was in 1899 that brought the American Ice Company to life from the merging of Knickerbocker Ice Company and Consolidated Ice.
A Shaky Start
Just a couple of years after its formation, the firm was making losses due to the stiff competition. But that didn’t prevent American Ice from running four huge factories in Baltimore. By 1906, all facilities managed to make more than a hundred thousand tons of ice. The firm artificially produced about 70% of the ice in the city, while 30% came from nearby rivers and ponds.
The American Ice Company purchased a property to expand its facility in 1910. A year later, it created a brick factory to produce artificial ice meant for the states in the Central Atlantic. This factory can accommodate about 15,000 tons of ice. The plant could extract more than 50 gallons of water per minute from 200-feet deep wells, which produced more than a hundred tons of ice every day. Two decades later, the ice business was named the second-biggest ice distributor in the US, making about $6 million worth of sales in a year.
But as freezers and refrigerators started to be popular in residential and business establishments, the American Ice Company modified its operations. They began to make bags of ice for their commercial clients while dry ice for their industrial customers.
In May 2001, the factory was burned down, but fortunately, it was only at the back part of the structure that was damaged. The production went on. But unfortunate events kept on coming, this time, the fire brought serious damage to the structure. They finally closed for operation in 2004.
The Abandoned Building
The abandoned structure in 2013 made it to the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Some developers planned on reconstructing the factory while keeping the historical architecture of the building.
One of the developers, Ilya Alter, bought the building in 2016 for more than $500,000. Together with his other business partner Bill Struver, they envisioned the ice plant as a multifunctional property. It will appear to be an open-air space, a restaurant, and 40 residential units.
The entire rebuilding project had a budget of over $18 million. The property was demolished in 2019, which also started the construction of the multifunctional area. Contractors projected that the completion would be around the summer of 2020.
According to Alter’s statement, the American Ice building’s reconstruction project was very personal to him. 1992, he and his family from Russia immigrated to the US. He and his business partners aim to ignite further development to the local community to experience more economic opportunities.